POLO: Training fee cases referred to POEA before claims go over 3-year period

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Labor Attaché Melchor Dizon (FILE PHOTO)

The Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong (POLO-HK) on Monday said it does not immediately refer training fee claims to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Manila, amid calls from migrant workers to stop doing so.

In a response sent to Hong Kong News, Labor Attache Melchor Dizon said POLO-HK refers claims to POEA only if these are about to go beyond the three-year prescriptive period, if both parties request a referral, or if an agreement is not reached within 30 days.

Dizon said if the complaint will go beyond the three-year period since the violation was committed, “it should be docketed at the POEA to stop the running of the prescriptive period; otherwise, it cannot be filed anymore.”

The POLO said it refers cases in compliance with two department orders under the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment.

Migrant workers had lashed out at POLO-HK for its supposed inaction on the training fee claims, accusing the office of making the process difficult. On Sunday, several of them took to the streets of Hong Kong in protest.

In response, Dizon said the OFW complainants may file their claims with either POLO in Hong Kong or with the POEA when their contracts are finished and they have already gone home.

Should their case be referred to the POEA for adjudication and they are still overseas, they must execute a Special Power of Attorney and state who will represent them in the hearings in Manila.

The Labor Attaché in Hong Kong also said complainants should come personally to POLO-HK so the office can assist in submitting their testament under oath.

Worker organisation United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) earlier said in a statement that POLO-HK’s actions are “unsurprising,” saying that POLO-HK had previously referred a deluge of illegal collection complaints to the POEA in 2013.

The organisation had called on Dizon and POLO-HK to communicate with victims of exorbitant fee collection and to not renege on their agreement with Filipino community leaders last year about training fees claims to be adjudicated in the city.

In order to work in Hong Kong, workers were reportedly required to pay as high as HK$10,000 to employment agencies to cover the cost of processing and training fees.

But POLO-HK said that training is not needed to process documents for deployment. Should agencies require this, workers may lodge complaints against them.